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Job Descriptions: Why They are Important

The core foundation of any business includes: the worker, job tasks and producing a product or providing a service. By correctly matching workers to jobs for which they are qualified, employers can improve safety and decrease the costs of doing business. Properly identifying and documenting your organization's specific work activities with employee job descriptions can help you better manage your workplace. 

What Is a Job Description? 

A job description is a written document that outlines and defines specific, measurable job functions. The document also outlines other requirements, conditions and qualifications, such as mental and physical tasks, working environment, job hazards, personal protective equipment, other equipment used and educational levels. 

A job description is an informational tool that can become the basis for: 

  • Decision-making in hiring and retaining employees
  • Completing employee performance evaluations
  • Arranging job modification and return-to-work placements for injured/ill employees 

How to Gather and Write Information for Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are written based on objective data gathered during a job analysis. Employers can be trained to perform job analysis and write job descriptions or outside analysts can be hired to complete this process. 

A job analysis or job description usually includes: 

  • Position title and company name
  • Department or work location
  • Reporting lines
  • Supervisory status (i.e., does position supervise others)
  • Job summary and purpose
  • Essential functions
  • Nonessential functions
  • Minimum qualifications (physical and cognitive)
  • Educational levels required
  • Description of workplace environment
  • Materials and equipment used on the job
  • Personal protective equipment used
  • Signatures or approvals
  • Name of evaluator and date of job analysis/ description

Workers' Compensation and Employee Illness 

In workers' compensation situations, employers deal with insurance representatives, medical providers, employees and sometimes legal counsel. The job description assists insurance adjusters in making a full assessment of the claim and investigating return-to-work options. Insurance adjusters can make timely inquiries with the treating physician, therapists, employer and employee about specific modifications that would allow the recovering employee to return to work when appropriate. 

Physicians want to review the job description, especially when asked to make informed medical opinions about a worker's return to work (in a full or modified capacity) or when prescribing a rehabilitation plan. Physical and occupational therapists use job descriptions as clinical planning tools for recovering employees in their work conditioning programs and functional capacity testing. 

An employer with an effective job description program in place is also in a better position to comply with discrimination claims, such as those related to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) and other state and federal regulations. 

Benefits of Up-To-Date Job Descriptions 

While job description programs are not required, they do help document job-related information, which can offer these benefits: 

  • Workers' job-related responsibilities are well documented and defined, based on objective information
  • Employees have information explaining their current job functions, qualifications and responsibilities, as well as any other jobs to which they may advance
  • Employers have a factual basis for completing employee evaluations, delivering corrective action, assigning key responsibilities and creating specific training
  • Appropriate post-offer prework screens can be developed to help match workers to jobs they are suited for
  • When employees are injured or ill, job descriptions can be used by the employer, employee, insurance adjuster and medical providers to make decisions about a modified, transitional or full return to work
  • Employers have a basis for documenting task changes for existing positions or to help develop job descriptions for new positions 

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